Patients discharged from hospital stays are at risk of being readmitted. This is such a widespread problem that last year, the federal government instituted payment reductions and penalties against hospitals with high readmission rates of Medicare patients who were initially hospitalized for pneumonia, heart attack or heart failure.
One potential reason for high hospital readmission rates has to do with medication mistakes or at least, patient misunderstanding about medication changes, doses, drug interactions, etc. Such mistakes and misunderstandings can lead to subsequent hospital visits.
Last year, a practicing physician and researcher at Yale-New Haven Hospital, conducted a study of nearly 400 patients over the age of 64 at a local hospital. The patients had been admitted for heart failure, coronary syndrome or pneumonia. Of those discharged home, over 80% experienced a provider/hospital error or had no understanding of at least one medication change.
Medication changes, i.e., stopped or otherwise modified changes to medications, are very common at the time of discharge. The problem is that at the time of discharge, patients are often inundated with information and paperwork. Discussing medications and changes to medications at discharge is certainly not the optimal time to discuss medication regiments with patients because they are likely to forget the information.
In addition, medication changes can be intentional or negligent. Whether due to a hospital employee’s failure to follow medication discharge procedure or a hospital pharmacy mistake, medication errors at time of discharge are very likely to lead to readmission. For those with serious medical conditions, a medication mistake can be fatal.
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